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Written Statement - Higher Education Tuition Fees – Draft Regulations
Today draft regulations which will establish the regulatory framework for higher education tuition fees in Wales from academic year 2012/13 have been laid before the Assembly. The draft Student Fees (Amounts) (Wales) Regulations 2011 and the draft Student Fees (Approved Plans) (Wales) Regulations 2011 are to be made by affirmative resolution. Both sets of draft regulations will be tabled for a plenary debate in March.
In the One Wales programme for government Welsh Ministers made a commitment to do whatever is possible to mitigate the effects on students ordinarily resident in Wales if the Westminster government were to lift the cap on fees. On 30 November 2010 I announced how Wales would respond to the decision by the UK Government to increase tuition fees in higher education institutions in England. The revised arrangements for higher education funding and statutory student support in Wales are to be put in place for students commencing new courses of study on or after 1st September 2012.
The Welsh Assembly Government has a responsibility to students ordinarily resident in Wales, wherever they choose to study. From academic year 2012/13 students ordinarily resident in Wales will continue to be eligible for subsidised loans to meet the cost of fees up to the current level. The Welsh Assembly Government will provide a non-means-tested grant for the balance over and above current fee levels.
To ensure that higher education institutions have sufficient time to plan for the new tuition fee and funding arrangements I am committed to establishing the necessary regulatory framework by the time this Assembly is dissolved ahead of the May elections. My officials have undertaken consultation on the delivery arrangements with key stakeholders and I have taken account of the feedback received in determining the scope of the draft regulations.
The draft Student Fees (Amounts) (Wales) Regulations prescribe the basic and higher amounts which relevant institutions will be able to charge by way of tuition fees for full-time undergraduate courses. “Relevant institutions” are those which receive grants, loans or other payments from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW).
I indicated initially that the basic and higher fee amounts would be established at £6,000 and £9,000 respectively, in line with the arrangements proposed by the UK Government in respect of English institutions. Stakeholders’ views on the basic fee amount were sought in the formal consultation exercise and via a stakeholder workshop on the delivery of the new student support and higher education funding package. The feedback from the consultation exercise has informed my decision to prescribe the basic fee amount as £4,000.
Central to the Welsh Assembly Government’s policy is the principle that access to higher education should be on the basis of the individual’s potential to benefit, and not on the basis of what they can afford to pay. The decision to set the basic fee level at £4,000 reflects the importance the Welsh Assembly Government places on the contribution which higher education makes to social justice. The requirement for institutions to have an approved plan in place, in order to charge tuition fees above the basic rate, will build on existing voluntary arrangements. This will help ensure continued action from Welsh institutions to pursue equality of access to, and promotion of, higher education.
The draft Student Fees (Approved) Plans Regulations prescribe the content and duration of fee plans required from relevant institutions which wish to charge tuition fees above the basic amount. They also set out what is required of HEFCW (as the relevant authority in relation to Wales) when approving and enforcing fee plans. The draft regulations specify that fee plans must set out the institution's objectives with regard to the promotion of equality of opportunity and the promotion of higher education. In particular the regulations provide for the following:
- the provisions required to be included in fee plans;
- the procedure for approval of fee plans, including variations to plans;
- the duration of fee plans, specified as a maximum of two years;
- the procedure for the enforcement of fee plans; and
- provisions for the review of HEFCW's decisions in relation to fee plans.
In practice the new arrangements will mean that from academic year 2012/13 higher education institutions will be able to charge tuition fees from £4,000 up to £9,000 a year, providing they can demonstrate a commitment to widening access and other strategic objectives relevant to the promotion of higher education. They will do this through fee plans approved by HEFCW. Guidance on the fee planning process will be issued to HEFCW in due course by my Department.